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September 16th, 2007

Not Quite so Rigid

According to CNN, the official kilogram is lighter than it used to be. The consequences for semantic theory are not remarked upon in the article.

Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized

3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “Not Quite so Rigid”

  1. jholbo says:

    That’s awesome.

    More specifically, I don’t know what to say, exactly. I think it’s sort of a split decision, between Wittgenstein and Kripke.

    Kripke is obviously confirmed in his claim that no one doubts that saying ‘the standard measure has changed weight’ makes perfectly sense. But the scientists don’t have any qualms about considering changing what ‘kilogram’ means, going forward. That is, their reason for thinking it makes perfect sense to consider that the fixed standard has itself changed weight is not exactly Kripke’s, if I am recalling correctly.

    The scientists preparing to convene a meeting clearly have no sense that, since ‘kilogram’ designates some fixed, rigid item in all possible worlds, either we get our standard back to matching that item, or we start using a standard of measurement that isn’t really a kilogram, even if we call it that.

  2. jholbo says:

    Actually, on second thought, an unkind soul might say it turns out that both Wittgenstein and Kripke are so wrong – but in opposite directions – that no practicing scientist so much as pauses to consider either of their views as delineating a potentially attractive position. Neither strict operationalism nor the metaphysics of rigid designation so much as crosses anyone’s minds, when a perfect test case crops up.

  3. RossPCameron says:

    On a similar note, I read in the paper recently that some scientists thought they had evidence that light travelled faster than the speed of light. Next we’ll discover that Jack the Ripper was innocent after all.

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